Biography (SGYY): Ding Yuan (Jianyang)

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Ding Yuan (Jianyang)
丁原 (建陽)
Lived: ?–189

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Ding Yuan (Jianyang)

Ding Yuan, styled Jianyang, served as Imperial Inspector of Jingzhou during the later years of the Han Dynasty. As a long standing servant of the Han, Yuan was fiercely loyal to its royal line and was known as a man of great integrity.

Following the demise of the Ten Regular Attendants in AD 189 (1), Dong Zhuo, imperial Inspector of Xiliang, invited Ding Yuan and a host of other high ranking officials to a banquet in the capital of Luoyang. Accompanied by officer Lü Bu (2), Ding Yuan arrived at the banquet and was soon introduced to Dong Zhuo, who entered the grounds without removing his sword. After some time, Zhuo ordered the festivities to cease and made to address Ding Yuan and the rest of the assembly. “I have only one thing to say,” he said in a voice both loud and harsh. “Hear it in silence. The Son of Heaven is sovereign lord of all, but without awe-inspiring dignity he cannot do honour to the ancestral temple or the sacred shrines. The present Emperor is timid and weak. For intellect and learning he cannot match the Prince of Chenliu, who deserves to inherit the throne. Hence I shall depose the Emperor and instate the prince. What do you great ministers have to say?” (3)

1: The Ten Regular Attendants, also know as the Ten Eunuchs, had manipulated the Han court unchallenged for years, which had resulted in the Yellow Turban Rebellion of AD 184. In AD 189, Regent Marshal of the Han He Jin issued a call to arms to local regional lords to exterminate the Eunuchs. Dong Zhuo was one such lord who responded to the call and, after the Attendants had all been captured and killed, Zhuo took up residence in the capital of Luoyang itself.
2: While stationed in Henei, Ding Yuan found and employed a young man named Lü Bu, who he later adopted as his own son.
3: Prior to Emperor Ling’s death in AD 189, the right of successor had been disputed between his two sons, Prince Bian and Prince Xie. Being the older of the two, Prince Bian eventually was crowned Emperor Shao after the death of his father.

Outraged at Dong Zhuo’s speech, Ding Yuan rose from his chair, while the rest of the assembly was struck speechless, and shouted, “This is wrong, wrong! Who are you to dictate such a thing? The Son of Heaven, lawful heir of true descent, is innocent of fault. To propose his removal is madness. Are you trying to overthrow the dynasty?”

In response, Dong Zhuo said, “Those who obey me, live; those who don’t, die.”

Zhuo then drew his sword and pointed it menacingly towards Ding Yuan. Undeterred by Dong Zhuo’s threat, Ding Yuan remained standing with Lü Bu poised behind him, at which point Dong Zhuo’s adviser Li Ru rose and said, “Let us not speak of politics at the banquet. There will be time some other day for open discussion at the council hall.”

Members of the banquet’s audience then urged Ding Yuan to leave in order to avoid conflict. Taking their advice, Yuan soon mounted and left along with Lü Bu.

On the day following the banquet with Dong Zhuo, Ding Yuan assembled an army of his Jing troops for an attack on Dong Zhuo. Arriving at Luoyang’s gates, Yuan was met by Zhuo and his own forces. Moving to the front of his line, Ding Yuan pointed at Dong Zhuo and cried out, “Power-hungry eunuchs, the curse of the dynasty, have thrown the masses of the people into the depths of misery. Now you, without a jot of merit, speak madly of meddling in the succession. Do you want to overthrow the dynasty yourself?”

Before Dong Zhuo had chance to answer, Ding Yuan led a charge against Dong Zhuo’s army, and Zhuo, intimidated at the ferociousness of Yuan’s commander Lü Bu, fled. Ding Yuan pursued Zhuo for over 30 li and killed many of his soldiers, after which both armies retired and set up camp.

In his tent that night, Ding Yuan was reading a text by candlelight when Lü Bu admitted himself. Surprised at his arrival, Yuan asked, “What brings you here, my son?”

“I am my own man,” Lü Bu replied, “and proud of it. I am no ‘son’ of yours.”

“Why have you turned against me?” Ding Yuan asked, but Lü Bu attacked and killed Yuan with a concealed knife without giving an answer. In fact, Lü Bu had been visited that night by one of Dong Zhuo’s commanders, Li Su, who had plied Bu with gold and pearls to betray Ding Yuan and join Zhuo. Lü Bu, a brave but shallow man by nature, had taken to Li Su’s suggestion quickly and elected to kill Ding Yuan as a service to Dong Zhuo.

Copyright © 2006 Sam Wrest. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms